Led by a first-half Gareth Bale brace, Real Madrid beat Levante 2-0 on Sunday in a La Liga match at Estadio Santiago Bernabéu. Bale had a great day, emphatically ending a nine-match scoring drought across all competitions.
The win helped close the gap on the top of La Liga’s table between second-place Real Madrid and first-place rivals Barcelona, who are now just two points clear. The victory over Levante makes an upcoming March 22 matchup between the top two sides even more interesting. A win for either side puts either club in first place (either Barca by five points or Real by one). Levante have now lost three consecutive matches and are mired in the relegation zone.
Real Madrid were in control for most of the match, and it didn’t take long for Carlo Ancelotti’s side to take the lead. After a wild sequence of deflections and rebounds, winger Bale scored on a volley to put Real Madrid up 1-0 in the 18th minute. The play began a cross by striker Karim Benzema. A miss-hit Cristiano Ronaldo bicycle kick off that cross was headed away from the goal-line by Levante defender Ivan Ramis. Benzema challenged that clearance in the air, which sent a rebound to Bale. The Welshman scored his 11th goal of the year on a well-struck right-footed shot.
Bale scored again in the 40th minute to put Real Madrid up 2-0. Los Blancos showed off some thoughtful passing play that got Ronaldo open in space toward the right side of the goal. Ronaldo hit a low hard shot toward the left corner that appeared like it would head wide of the post. Bale deflected the shot and put it into the net past helpless Levante goalkeeper Diego Marino.
Early in the match it was clear Real Madrid were heading toward victory. Benzema looked like he might have put Real Madrid up in the 15th minute on a rebounded shot, but was well offside. It briefly looked like classic goal-poach, but the fans at El Bernebéu would have to wait. It took just three minutes for the wait to be over. The first half belonged entirely to Los Blancos. Besides the two Bale goals, they were able to keep possession of the ball and defend well. The second half would prove to be more of the same.
Benzema almost scored an absolutely amazing goal in the 64th minute, when he scorpion-kicked a back-heal volley off the upper left corner of the crossbar. The strike off a Ronaldo cross ricocheted off the bar. Benzema then shot that rebound, but it sailed wide. It would have been a truly amazing goal if the ball went just a fraction lower and to the right.
The score would end 2-0 despite a bevy of chances for Real Madrid. Star winger Ronaldo played relatively well and had a few decent looks at goal, including a strong shot in the 84th minute, but wasn’t able to find the back of the net. Ronaldo put himself in position to score throughout the match, but could not finish those chances. His 30 scores trail Barcelona’s Lionel Messi by two goals for the league lead.
Real Madrid play next in an extremely important league match when they host rival Barcelona on March 22. Levante will move to host Celta Vigo on March 21.